The Airplane Wine Guide

We've all been puzzled when drinking wine on airplane: we don't know why, but it always tastes different from what we're used to. But does the wine change when on-board? 

Scientifically speaking, no. Rather, it's us changing on a plane and not the wine itself. In this week's blog we look at how this happens and how we can address the problem so to able to enjoy a nice glass of wine while taking off to our next holiday destination.


 
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Why Does Wine Taste Different on a Plane?

Recently in the news the people in charge of selecting the wines to be served on Cathay Pacific flights decided that it was pointless tasting wines on the ground because the wines tasted so different once up in the air. But do the vibrations of the plane and the air pressure change our taste buds or do they change the wine itself? Scientifically we change on a plane and not the wine itself. 

How? A few facts - Cabin atmosphere is generally 40% dryer than on the ground. This dryness affects our nose follicles which means we can’t smell as well as normal, and with 3/4ers of our taste perception being driven by our buds, it means choosing and tasting a good wine may be harder than we think.

 

 
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Can engine noise affect the taste?

A new study apparently says yes, it can. Some flavours can become more intense with loud noise - and cabins are veeeeeery noisy - whilst other flavours can be squashed. Tomato juice for example is a winner, so beginning your journey with a Bloody Mary before going on to choosing your wine could be a starter. 

Why am I always offered Chardonnay on a flight, and never Pinot noir?

Some grapes work better at high altitude than others. Pinot Noir for example is a fragile grape and the small but many vibrations of the plane, which we barely feel, may upset the flavour molecules and the wine itself may then taste too tannic (i.e. overly dry and bitter) as well as acidic. Chardonnay is a variety that makes smoother wines which withstand air pressure and vibrations, so that it consistently tastes like it should.

 

 
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Why is my red wine always chilled on a plane?

Red wines are kept alongside the refrigerated white wines for sake of preserving them until they're loaded onto planes, so both arrive on board cold. That's not a big deal: just open the red, pour it out and leave it to warm up a bit. No need to swirl it around as the changing air of the plane will open up the aromas of the wine pretty much immediately. 

Don't forget to drink water!

There’s an old saying that ‘one glass in the air is worth two on the ground’. Dehydration from cabin pressure and altitude makes alcohol rather more potent, and dehydration is the first cause of hangovers... So it’s worth having a glass or two of water in between your glasses of wine and you won’t have anything to worry about once you land.

 

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